WESLACO – The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement's (VIDA) Executive Director, Myra Caridad García, announced Wednesday that the Allstate Foundation awarded VIDA with a $20,000 grant.

This project, which includes a partnership with Mujeres Unidas, focuses on providing job training and financial literacy training to survivors of domestic violence.

García was happy to hear that the partnership is being funded, "Mujeres Unidas has always referred their clients to VIDA for job training, and we have a long history of referring our participants to them when domestic violence is a problem. This will solidify that partnership and enhance the effectiveness of both organizations."

VIDA attracted the attention of Allstate with its high community college graduation rates for people who once lived below the poverty line. Last year 91% of VIDA's low income participants had either graduated or were still in school. The project will pay for tuition, books, childcare, transportation and weekly case management while survivors of domestic violence attend area community colleges.

Allstate was happy to see that Mujeres Unidas will use Allstate's Financial Empowerment Curriculum to empower survivors to understand and manage their finances. Mujeres Unidas will also educate and train VIDA caseworkers as advocates to work with domestic violence survivors as they move forward on the path to financial security. The curriculum includes strategies for addressing the complex financial and safety challenges of ending a relationship with an abusive partner; information on how to protect personal and financial safety in an abusive relationship and after leaving an abusive relationship; tools to help people of all incomes and earning power work toward long-term financial empowerment, including budgeting tools, step-by-step planners and more; tactics for locating and accessing local, state and national personal safety and financial resources; and more. The partnership includes Mujeres Unidas coordinating community workshops that include Allstate's Financial Empowerment Curriculum and information to the road to post-secondary education & training.

"One of our current participants is a great example of the kind of people we will be able to help with the funding from All State," says Bernie Saenz, VIDA Manager of Community Outreach. "She came to VIDA after leaving her abusive husband and moving with her two preschoolers into a 2 bedroom house with 4 other people. We assisted with housing, tuition, books, childcare, transportation and some emergency assistance. She is currently attending South Texas College and is scheduled to graduate next spring with an Associate Degree in Social Work. She told her counselor recently that she would have been ‘totally lost' without VIDA. And now, with Allstate's Financial Empowerment curriculum, she will also be able to access information that will help her plan for her new life after graduation."

Some of the project participants may not be academically prepared to go to college. They will not be alone-many of people who want to go to college in Texas are not college-ready. Before entering college-level courses, prospective students must pass one of Texas' required college entrance exams-the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA) or the Accuplacer. These exams are significant barriers for Texas community college students. Statewide in 2007 for example, only 25% of those who took the college entrance exam passed the math section on the first attempt and enrolled in college-level classes. Community colleges enroll those who cannot pass the exam in remedial classes, but this model is not working well. In the same 2007 group that required remediation Statewide, only 14.4% passed the math section of the exam one year later.1

VIDA's solution to this barrier to advancement is a College Prep Academy offered in partnership with South Texas College. After VIDA participants attend the intensive five days per week, six hours per day, 16 week program, 72% of participants pass the college entrance exam within one semester. This short turnaround time is crucial for adult learners who otherwise would expend significant Financial Aid resources on remedial rather than college-level courses, and in the process many become frustrated and drop out after several semesters of remediation without ever enrolling in a college-level class.

VIDA was created by community leaders of Valley Interfaith and a strong cross section of business leaders who wanted a vehicle to empower the underserved residents of the region to access education and training and at the same time create a skilled labor force to stimulate the Valley's economy.

For more information about VIDA, call 1-800-478-1770 or visit our website at www.vidacareers.org